The joy of holding a sweaty, sticky kid's hand while waiting
The joy of those 97.3 minutes waiting on line, hearing, "Is it our turn yet mom? Mom? Mom? Mooooooooommmm? When is it OUR! TURN?? How many more minutes? I'm thirsty! ...Hungry! ...Tired! ...Sweaty! ...Going to wet my pants!" All while trying to keep your kid from balancing on or hanging and swinging off of the "keep back" pipes that approximately eleven hundred and ninety seven people already touched - with their disgusting dirty, sweaty, poopish, snottish, germy unwashed hands.
I love Disney.
Really, I swear I do. But sometimes, parents can get a little crazy, and I have to admit I feel sorry for their kids. I am not a mom who feels the need to squeeze every last penny out of the $947 I just spent on one ticket to one park for one day. OK, that was a slight exaggeration, it's only about $147 a day for a ticket to one of the parks. But really, I've never been all like, "I just spent all of this money on you, so you are going to have some goddamn fun! Or else!"
I try to roll with it.
I've learned some tricks for making Disney work for me - I can't even remember the last time I had to wait in a really long line for a ride that we've already been on 11 times and didn't love that much in the first place.
First of all, take your time! You do not have to be the first one at the park banging on the gates to have fun! Admittedly, if you get there when the park opens, you have an advantage and can get to a lot of rides without the wait. You can pick and choose your first Fast Pass. There are definitely plusses to getting there early. It starts getting super busy at about 10 am, when parents are finally up and at 'em and their kids have had breakfast and are dressed snappily with their Mickey ears perched on their little heads. If you are aware of that, you're less likely to be stressed over the crowds.
In the past, my husband would take one of the kids with him and speedy quick make his way to the ride we want to Fast Pass first, while I leisurely get situated with the other kids, then he'd meet me wherever it is that we decided to go to first. It helps to have a partner to make the runs for Fast Pass.
Speaking of Fast Pass, pick them wisely. Like, you need to personally prioritize your rides. Don't Fast Pass "It's a Small World" immediately if it's not one of the top rides your family wants to go on. Keep in mind, FP for the popular rides will run out early. So Fast Pass one of the rides that typically has the longest line - like the Speedway or Space Mountain or Splash Mountain. With little kids Dumbo, Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan tend to have long lines, so Fast Pass one of those first.
Also, invest in the Disney app. It really does help. It tells you which rides have the least amount of wait time and it is updated constantly. Maybe I should keep that info to myself...
Bring supplemental snacks and drinks in a backpack. That way, when you are stuck on a little line waiting, you can "picnic" while you wait, and nobody can complain that they're starving or thirsty after you've already waited far too long to justify getting out of line to feed your hungry kid a Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream bar (so freaking good, by the way). If I've waited 94 minutes for a ride, my kid would pretty much have to be eating their own arm from hunger to get me to get out of line, so I always make sure to pack sandwiches and goldfish.
It also doesn't hurt to have a few small toys in your backpack to entertain your kid while you wait. I try to bring a few Disney-type guys or princesses to play with. They're easy to squeeze in the bag, and they help when you're in a bind and over trying to distract your kid til it's your turn.
And finally, lower your expectations. Kids get tired. They get hot and sweaty and hungry. Don't expect it to be perfectly magical. Days are long at Disney, and it's unrealistic to think that your 3-year-old is going to make a 12 hour day without a melt down. It's not fun for anyone if you're dragging a screaming, flailing wiped out kid through the park, especially for the flailing kid. That's the time when you should probably head back to the hotel/resort for a rest, or to the pool for a swim. Be prepared for the likelihood that something like that will happen. You can't be mad at your kid for flipping out if they're exhausted.
Anyway, can you tell we'll soon be hitting the parks? I start to think about all of these things before we go on a Disney vaca...
At the end of the day, I've learned that the key to having a good experience is to be realistic and to be able to roll with whatever comes your way. Be flexible and ready to switch up your meticulous plans if need be. Don't waste an hour and a half to wait on a line for a ride - it's just not worth it. Even if Dumbo is your two-year-old's all time absolute favorite thing in the world - if you have to wait an entire airplane ride to Florida to see Dumbo, something is wrong there. And trust me, your kiddo will get over it. There is so much to see and do there, it's virtually impossible for them not to have tons of fun.